Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2016
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2016 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Aaron Kinney


Nov. 8 Initiative Would Authorize 15 % Tax on Retail Sales 
Ofmarijuana in California

SAN FRANCISCO - California voters will decide again this November 
whether to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults, 
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday, calling the looming vote a 
"pivotal moment" in the national debate around pot legalization and 
the 45-year-old war on drugs.

Newsom and other leaders of a coalition behind the Adult Use of 
Marijuana Act announced they have collected enough signatures to 
place on the Nov. 8 ballot a measure that would make it legal for 
adults 21 and older to possess, sell or transport up to an ounce of 
pot. California voters rejected a similar measure in 2010.

At a news conference Wednesday in San Francisco, members of the 
coalition - including the California NAACP and a former deputy chief 
with the Los Angeles Police Department - offered several arguments 
for the measure, from crime and racial justice to the environment and 
personal liberty.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, RCosta Mesa, said the proposal is a matter of 
freedom and fiscal responsibility.

"I can't think of a bigger waste of government money than to try to 
use it to control the private lives of adults," said the congressman, 
who worked under President Ronald Reagan when he made his famous 1987 
speech in front of the Berlin Wall. "The walls of cannabis 
prohibition and this tyranny that our people have faced is coming 
down. Join us in tearing down this wall."

The campaign for the initiative raised about $2.7 million for the 
signature-gathering drive, said spokesman Jason Kinney with support 
from Sean Parker, the billionaire veteran of Napster and Facebook. 
The measure needs about 366,000 signatures to qualify, and advocates 
said they have submitted roughly 600,000.

The initiative would impose a 15 percent tax on all retail sales of 
marijuana, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in government 
revenue. Most of the money would be dedicated to youth drug 
prevention and treatment, the rest distributed to various programs 
including law enforcement training, cleaning up environmental damage 
wrought by illegal pot farms and, in Newsom's words, "the most 
comprehensive research that will have ever been done on marijuana in 
this nation."

The law would include restrictions to protect minors, including a ban 
on advertising that targets youths and regulations on how edible weed 
is packaged and marketed.

Newsom said he personally "can't stand" marijuana consumption but is 
bothered by the impact of pot criminalization on minorities, who are 
incarcerated at higher rates than whites, and young people who make 
dumb mistakes.

"You do not have to be pro-marijuana to be prolegalization," Newsom 
said. "We are not promoting something that is not already ubiquitous 
in the state of California. Survey after survey, our kids say the 
same thing: It is easier to get marijuana than it is to get alcohol."

Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of hematology and oncology at San Francisco 
General Hospital, said legalizing marijuana, as long as there are 
strict controls to protect adolescents, will improve public health in 

"The war on drugs is much more detrimental to the health of our 
country and our people than cannabis," said Abrams, who has 
researched medicinal cannabis since 1997, a year after California 
voters passed the nation's first medical pot law.

But there will be opposition. Carla Lowe, founder of Citizens Against 
Legalizing Marijuana, said she worries about the effects of 
marijuana, which is far more potent than it was in 1971 when 
President Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs.

"This stuff is damaging our kids' brains," she said. "This does not 
bode well for a strong, healthy, productive America."

Lowe campaigned six years ago against Proposition 19, which was 
rejected by 53.5 percent of voters. But the public mood may have 
shifted. A 2015 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California 
found 55 percent of likely voters would support pot legalization.

On Wednesday, the Bay Area Council announced that a new poll of Bay 
Area residents found that 50 percent support legalizing the 
recreational use of marijuana in California as called for in the 
Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which would require a simple majority to 
pass. The Bay Area Council Poll was conducted by Oakland-based public 
opinion research firm EMC Research from Feb. 12 to March 9, and 
surveyed more than 1,000 residents online about a range of issues. It 
has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

If approved, California would join Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and 
Washington in legalizing recreational pot. The initiative would 
permit adults to grow up to six plants in their homes as long as they 
are out of public view and not accessible by children.

Using marijuana in public and driving while high would remain 
illegal, and employers would be given latitude to ban nonmedical 
marijuana use by employees. Local governments would have the 
authority to ban commercial marijuana activity and enact other restrictions.

The 15 percent excise tax would apply to marijuana for both 
recreational and medical use. But medical marijuana would be exempt 
from sales taxes.

Though more than a dozen other groups indicated they would explore 
placing a measure on the 2016 ballot, it's highly likely the Adult 
Use of Marijuana Act will be the only one for voters to ponder this 
fall, Kinney said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom